Berry picking is easy on Newfoundland’s East Coast Trail, there are lots of berries you can pick from the side of the trail ranging from bland but edible to refreshing and delicious.
Weather and time of year are critical factors in your berry picking success, here’s a rough schedule of the picking seasons for the most popular fruits:
- July: bakeapples
- August: blueberries, crackerberries, snowberries, raspberries
- September: blackberries, crowberries
- October: cranberries & marshberries
- November: partridgeberries
- iBooks: berry picking in the East Coast Trail Guide
- Featured: photos & stories about berry picking
Wild berries are not hard to ID, but there are some look-alikes among their ranks. If you’ve never picked berries before or if you’re uncertain about your berry picking skills, bring a field guide to help you avoid picking unripe fruits or inedible berries that could be poisonous.
In late July, look for the infamous bakeapple. This juicy fruit has a unique taste and can be hard to find; people here like these orange goodies so much they won’t tell you where to find them, it’s a secret! If you want to try some on your hike, you’ll have to venture into the soggy ‘bakeapple bogs’ that dot the East Coast Trail.
August is the time to find the most popular berry on the trail, the sweet and simple blueberry. In forest clearings and open fields with plenty of sunshine you’ll find enough to fill several buckets, and many people venture onto the trail for this exact purpose. If the August blueberries are too sour or bland for your taste, try them in early September.
Another August berry is the crackerberry, it is found flanking the forest paths of the East Coast Trail. Locally, they are also known as bunchberries. In high summer these red berries are truly everywhere so it’s a pity they don’t taste like much. Peeled, they have a mildly sweet taste, somewhat reminiscent of lychees.
On shaded forest floors, often in close proximity to crackerberries, you may find small white berries called creeping snowberries. They are about the size and shape of Tic Tacs and they sort of taste like them too. In August when they’re ripe, try a couple in one serving to appreciate their minty flavour.
Another popular berry that ripens in August and September is the raspberry. You’ll most readily find these in areas where the forest has been cleared. Raspberries are hard to mistake for anything else, save perhaps unripe blackberries, which look similar but have a glossy coat whereas raspberries are ‘velvety’.
Halfway through September, it is time to pick the intensely sweet blackberry. Avoid picking these too soon, blackberries should be ripe if you want them to be good. Ripe fruits are black and come loose with the slightest touch. Look for blackberries in moderately wet areas, never too far from a small stream.
Small and humble, the crowberry hides in plain sight at ankle-level on the windswept barrens. This berry is deep red in colour, almost black, making it difficult to spot in all but the best light. The crowberry doesn’t taste like anything but it is edible and available in large quantities all through September.
Cranberries grow on coastal headlands in thick carpet-like shrubs that spread over the ground like a weed. The closely related marshberries are so similar that it’s difficult telling them apart both in taste and appearance. You’ll find marshberries further away from the ocean, in and around bogs and marshes. Both berries ripen after the first frost, in late October and November.
The last berry of the season is the easy to spot partridgeberry, a dark-red pearl that’s seriously yummy in a pie. Partridgeberries are best picked in late November, after they’ve been sweetened by several frosts. Personally I like them even better the following spring, when they’re almost pure juice.
Berry picking in the East Coast Trail Guide
While the East Coast Trail Guide is a hiking guide and not a berry picking guide, it can help you find what you’re looking for with its many references to berry picking, both in the trail descriptions and on the trail maps: